Revolutionary Worker #1195, April 20, 2003, posted at rwor.org
"I am a conscientious objector because there is no way for me to remain a Marine without sacrificing my entire sense of self-respect.... I refuse to surrender my dignity, I refuse to hand over my liberty or surrender my beliefs. I refuse to kill. The military demands obedience, but I will not obey... I know it demands courage to say no in the face of coercion. I hope other soldiers will find the courage to follow their beliefs... I hope other soldiers will come to see they are more than just cogs in the machinery of war and have the power of free will."
--Stephen Funk, 20-year-old Marine Corp Reservist, April 1, 2003
Stephen Funk was 19 when he signed up for the Marine Reserves. He said, "I wanted to belong and I wanted another direction in my life, and this seemed to offer it. They told me I would be able to go back to school... The ads make the armed forces look so cool--`Call this number and we'll send you a free pair of boxer shorts'--and a lot of kids don't realize what's involved."
At boot camp Stephen started to feel he and his fellow recruits were being turned into killing machines without a conscience. "Every day in combat training you had to yell out `Kill! Kill!' and we would get into trouble if you didn't shout it out, so often I would just mouth it so I didn't get into trouble." The recruits were also encouraged to hurt each other during hand-to-hand combat training. "I couldn't do that so they would pair me up with someone who was very violent or aggressive."
Stephen was outraged when many soldiers envied those going to the Gulf. "They would say things like, `Kill a raghead for me--I'm so jealous.' "
Stephen took his concerns to the Marine chaplain who told him, "It's a lot easier if you just give in and don't question authority."
When his unit was deployed February 13 for active duty, Funk refused to show up. He told the British newspaper The Guardian , "I would rather take my punishment now than live with what I would have to do [in Iraq] for the rest of my life."
After Stephen applied for CO status, his attorney, Stephen Collier, said, "He wanted to do it in a public way so that other young men and women who he felt were impressionable and just going along with the program would realize that they don't have to."
Stephen Funk's CO status is currently being reviewed.
"I am in a position to make a difference or remain silent"
"Today, I am in a position to make a difference or remain silent. Will I participate in a war which could lead to hundreds of thousands of civilians dead, endanger the safety of the American people and create chaos in the Middle East, all to benefit a few powerful and wealthy people?"
--Sp/4 Ghanim Khalil
Ghanim Khalil, 26, of Staten Island, NY, announced before a big antiwar rally at the UN on February 15 that he would refuse orders to be part of any unilateral military invasion of Iraq. Khalil was with the Army National Guard in Brooklyn and his unit had been told it was "only a matter of time" before they would be called to active duty in the Gulf.
Before joining the National Guard, Khalil, an American citizen of Pakistani/Kashmiri descent and a Sufi Muslim, served four years on active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps at the Parris Island, SC basic training base. While there, he assumed the role of Islamic lay leader for Islamic Marines and he was an advocate for Marines who had suffered from anti-Islamic prejudice at the base.
Khalil told a press conference on February 15 before the demonstration, "I have objections to this war. I believe that this war is for material gain. I believe that this war will lead to security problems for the American people and that our children will be endangered in the future."
"I won't be going with them!"
Private Wilfredo Torres went AWOL from Ft. Benning, GA. Back home in Rochester, NY, he did some reading and thinking. "I decided that it would be wrong for our country to attack Iraq on its own, without working as a part of the United Nations. I'm no expert, but I think that such an attack would undermine the UN and lower America's standing in the world."
Speaking before 200 veterans from WW2, Korea, Vietnam and Gulf War 1 at a Veteran's Day antiwar rally in New York City on November 10, Wilfredo announced he would turn himself in to have his case resolved. He received a standing ovation from the audience and several Vietnam and Gulf vets praised his courage and said they wished that they had made the same decision.
Wilfredo was sent to Ft. Knox, which has become a center for "processing" returning AWOLs. He reported that at least 60 other AWOL soldiers were there when he arrived. After a reporter from Rolling Stone asked to interview him, the army gave Wilfredo an "Other than Honorable" discharge instead of a court-martial.
"This War is Wrong"
Michael Sudsbury joined the Army Reserves straight out of high school in 1994. "I'm not sure why I did it. The recruiter talked to me just when I didn't know what I was going to do with my life," Michael said.
Michael was supposed to get out of the Reserves on January 8, 2003 but was kept in because of the war situation. He told the Army he intended to file for CO status but his application was not complete when his unit was ordered to report for duty on February 10.
Michael decided: "I would say, `No' and I would make it as loud and as public as I could, in the hopes that maybe a few more would consider that perhaps they also ought to say no. And I would take the consequences. I found out some of the possible consequences. I found out that I could be sentenced to possibly seven years in military jail for disobeying orders and missing a troop movement. This scared me and my wife of just two weeks, but it did not deter me."
On February 9, the day before he was to report, Michael was told he would be discharged. The next day, in Salt Lake City, Michael held a press conference to say, "This war is wrong. I would have gone to jail rather than fight it."
Violating their own rules
On April 7, Specialist Gabriel Johnson, 27, of the 104th Military Intelligence Battalion at Ft Hood, TX, was shipped to the Iraqi war zone despite his request to be discharged as a Conscientious Objector.
Johnson's attorney, Tod Ensign, said, "The Army is violating its own rules by sending Gabe into a war zone. His CO claim can't be judged fairly by commanders in the heat of battle." Army Regulations provide that soldiers who claim to be COs are to be assigned to military duties which "minimally conflict with their stated beliefs." They are to be kept in this status until the review of their claim is completed.
Rachel Pundsac, Johnson's sister, says Gabriel has been punished with restriction to his barracks as a way of isolating him.
"Our REAL duty is to the people of the world"
Groups that counsel GI resisters have reported a large increase in calls for advice. The Center on Conscience and War in Washington, which counsels prospective COs, reported 3,500 calls for advice in January, twice the normal rate.
The brave GI resisters deserve our support. As the Call to Conscience from Veterans to Active Duty Troops and Reservists says, "If the people of the world are ever to be free, there must come a time when being a citizen of the world takes precedence over being the soldier of a nation. Now is that time. When orders come to ship out, your response will profoundly impact the lives of millions of people in the Middle East and here at home. Your response will help set the course of our future. You will have choices all along the way. Your commanders want you to obey. We urge you to think. We urge you to make your choices based on your conscience. If you choose to resist, we will support you and stand with you because we have come to understand that our REAL duty is to the people of the world and to our common future."
The author would like to thank the Center on Conscientious Objectors, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Anti-Imperialist, and Citizen Soldier, whose information was essential in writing this article.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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